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Taking terrorists at their word

Christie Pesavento | Tuesday, November 17, 2009

 In August of 1996, Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa to fellow Islamist supporters across the globe, declaring war against the United States.

Five years later, Americans watched frozen in horror as the Twin Towers erupted in flames before crumbling into a heap of iron and ashes, an explosion ripped a hole in the side of the Pentagon and a hijacked passenger plane headed toward Washington, D.C. crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
 
It is now November of 2009, eight years since that tragic day in September when 2,976 innocent lives perished at the hands of nineteen Islamic fundamentalists bent upon carrying out bin Laden’s call for the indiscriminate slaughter of Americans everywhere. Little more than a week ago, an Islamic extremist opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas, killing thirteen and wounding over two dozen others. This occurred despite the fact that the killer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had spoken out against the wars being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq to his colleagues, expressed sympathy for suicide bombing, called for infidels to be beheaded and have “burning oil poured down their throats” during what was supposed to be a medical presentation, and had even attempted to contact al-Qaeda prior to committing the massacre.
 
Red flags, anyone? Hindsight may be 20/20, but in certain situations, foresight is far from legally blind.
 
Of course the immediate reaction by the media, along with some military officials, was not to forcefully condemn the attack, but to hastily explain that no connection had been established between Hasan’s actions and his Muslim faith, and that the incident was likely due to job-related “stress.” In this day and age, political correctness must always take precedent over concern for the dead and dying, and the perpetrator is the real victim of the situation. Only Senator Joe Lieberman had the guts to call a spade a spade, labeling Hasan a “self-radicalized, home-grown terrorist.”
 
Then last Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the administration has decided to hold self-confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, along with four of his fellow plotters, on trial in the United States, where they will be afforded the same constitutional rights as U.S. citizens. Yes, these terrorists will have the very same rights as citizens of a system they wish to destroy.
 
Oh, but the trial will not be held in just any old courtroom; Mohammed and co’s trial will take place in New York’s southern district, just a half-mile away from Ground Zero.
 
“We’re going to go back into New York City, the scene of the tragedy on 9/11. We’re now going to rip that wound wide open,” said an exasperated Pete Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, on CBS News. “And it’s going to stay open for, what, two, three, four years as we go through the circus of a trial … “
 
Sen. Lieberman also criticized Holder’s announcement, citing the views of over 140 family members of 9/11 victims. “It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims’ families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America.”
 
It is as if some in our country, including the president and attorney general, are experiencing a collective onset of amnesia. If there was one lesson to be learned from 9/11, it was that international terrorism cannot be fought as though it were a crime. Treating it as such facilitated the security failures that enabled the attacks to occur. And yet the Obama administration insists upon slapping every individual who lost someone dear on September 11th in the face by treating the perpetrators as common criminals.
 
The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and continue to plot further attacks are not citizens of this country; they are enemies of it. Moreover, their attacks are an act of war, as noted by bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa. Al-Qaeda may not wear uniforms or swear an oath of allegiance to a state, but to classify them as something closer to American citizens than to war criminals that should be tried in military tribunals is patently absurd.
 
The president, for all his talk of treating people of all faiths, including Muslims, with respect, refuses to take them at their word. If bin Laden had issued his “Declaration of War Against Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places” today, Obama would probably give him a condescending pat on the head before continuing the real war against those anti-American, racist, tea-party Nazis and other right-wing extremist groups here at home. His administration sees more reason to fear alarmist threats of global warming than the real enemy at our doorstep.
 
What will it take for this nation, and particularly our leaders, to wake up and realize that we are still facing an existential threat from terrorists and should take their words and actions seriously? Apparently 3,000 dead Americans was not enough. We still insist upon shielding home-grown terrorists because we fear accusations of racism and religious insensitivity more than the loss of innocent life, and we bring terrorist masterminds to the United States for trial in civilian court because we care more for their alleged rights than the rights of the people they have killed and plan to kill.
 
It is time we set our priorities straight and take the threat of terrorism seriously, if not for the honor of the victims, than for the lives of all future generations of Americans.
 
Christie Pesavento is a senior who is majoring in political science and sociology. She can be reached at cpesaven@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.